Welcome to our new study.
Of all the biblical characters, one of my very favorites is David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, the shepherd who became a King. His life provides us with enough meditation material for months, even years. The message of that life will accompany us for the rest of our days.
Perhaps the foremost reason to study the life of David is because of his incredibly personal and vibrant relationship with the God of Israel. To read the book of Psalms is to join in with David’s praise and worship of the Most High. His declarations of commitment, his abounding gratitude, his exuberant celebration of the One he loves with all his heart move us to follow his example.
But at the same time he was so very human. We experience his greatness along with his weaknesses and failures as we follow him through the pages of Scripture. He challenges us to know ourselves as we learn to know him.
Most of all, studying David’s life reminds us why we are on this earth: to develop that selfsame intimate relationship with the Holy One of Israel, to get to know Him, to love Him and to walk in His ways. David shows us what it means to be faithful to God, to find our strength in God when we’re lonely and discouraged. He teaches us how to repent – as we all must – and how to restore our relationship with the Lord after our failures.
During this bible study we will spend considerable time in I and II Samuel where most of David’s life is recorded. We’ll also refer to his psalms from time to time as they provide great insight into the inner workings of his soul. I encourage you to read I Samuel for yourself before next week’s lesson is posted.
But by way of introduction today, I want us to focus on what is perhaps David’s most famous psalm.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil for You are with me.
Your rod and your staff comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
It is read at weddings and at funerals. It is inscribed on synagogue and church walls. But what does this psalm say to you? Is it so familiar that its lost its impact?
Picture a young boy out in the fields beyond Bethlehem, strumming his simple harp and composing this song. His father’s flocks graze contentedly nearby, the late summer breezes cause the leaves of the trees to dance above his head. A winding stream flows effortlessly over stones and silt.
The shepherd observes this tranquil setting, then raises his eyes to heaven and begins to sing with only the sheep for an audience. Or maybe not – are the angels leaning forward to listen as well?
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want… he begins. Entire books have been written on this psalm alone. For now, let’s focus on the very first verse.
Did you notice that David calls the Lord “my shepherd”? Not ‘our’, not ‘a’ but ‘my’. The Lord is MY shepherd and He is YOURS, too. Perhaps where you live there are not flocks of sheep with shepherds tending them for you to observe. Here in Israel, they abound. On any day of the week, you can drive past a field with flocks of various sizes being tended by a suntanned shepherd.
And what is that shepherd’s job description? To guide his flock to good pasture, to defend them from predators, to handle them when they get feisty, to tend to their injuries, to seek them out if they get lost – to take care of them in every aspect of their existence.
The Lord is YOUR Shepherd…and He takes His responsibilities far more seriously than any earthly shepherd ever could. For while the Bible compares us to sheep, you are not a sheep but a human being created in the image of God. The big difference between us and sheep is that we are infinitely more prone to depend on ourselves unlike the sheep who follow the Shepherd wherever He leads them. We need to be a little more ‘sheep-ish’!
Perhaps the best thing we can do to prepare our hearts for this bible study on the life of David is to meditate on Psalm 23 during this coming week. Don’t let familiarity rob you of the profound significance of each verse. Read it as if for the first time, pausing at the end of every verse to think about it and to take it to heart.
Let Him ‘restore your soul’, remove every fear, comfort you in the midst of whatever is going on in your life at present. Thank Him that surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.
Let Psalm 23 become as much YOUR psalm as it was David’s.
Til next Tuesday, be blessed and be a blessing.